What do electricians do? You may have some idea, but things can get a lot more interesting than you might expect. For instance, did you know that electricians work in space missions or that master electricians train for almost as long as doctors?
If you’re considering a career as an electrician, you need to understand what the field holds for you. You should also be familiar with the different types of electricians and how their responsibilities vary.
In this article, we’ll help you understand the job descriptions, responsibilities, and daily duties associated with different types of electricians.
What Do Electricians Do: Job Responsibilities of Different Electricians
Most electricians start as a ‘Journeyman Electrician’ after completing four years of job training through an apprenticeship program. Depending on their area of work and specialization, an electrician can advance to specific roles.
Some of the typical systems that electricians work on include:
- Power drives
- Lighting systems
- Communication devices
- Control systems
- Electrical machines and equipment
Typically, every electrician performs the following tasks as a part of their daily responsibilities:
- Read and interpret architect blueprints, circuit diagrams, and other technical documents.
- Plan layouts for electrical wiring for new buildings (including positioning electrical outlets, lighting fixtures, heating outlets, and ventilation systems)
- Install and maintain motors, switchboards as well as automated and electrical controls according to state and municipal codes
- Identify the proper electrical equipment for new and existing buildings.
- Test, repair, and maintain electrical equipment
- Connect electrical equipment and appliances
- Apply electrical specifications and electrical theory to determine job requirements
- Perform fault-finding by inspecting circuit breakers, transformers, and other electrical components
- Learn and abide by state and local regulations based on the national electrical code and building codes
- Train other electricians in specific tasks
- Explain electrical work and requirements to clients in layman’s terms
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Types of Electricians
Outside Lineman/Line Installers
Line installers play a crucial role in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. As the name suggests, these electricians work outdoors on electrical power line transmissions, communication cables, and fiber optics.
They are responsible for ensuring that the electrical wiring is properly functioning. In case of any breakdowns, they repair electrical wiring and power distribution systems.
It is a highly physical line of work. High voltage linemen who work on high-tension lines hundreds or thousands of feet high typically receive extensive safety training, including climbing training and training performing high-angle rescues.
Most employers require lineman applicants to possess a high school diploma or comparable credentials. Several technical colleges offer Lineman classes which typically result in a certificate. That said, on-the-job training and apprenticeships are preferred in this field.
Inside wiremen work on low-voltage electricians and residential, commercial, and industrial systems. These contractors are primarily responsible for on-premises electrical wiring and distribution. They are responsible for connecting the client’s electrical equipment to the power source.
The daily responsibilities of an inside wireman include installing conduits, lighting fixtures, and electrical outlets. They can also help inspect and maintain electrical motors or install fire alarm systems or electrical control panels.
Inside wireman often have to work full time, including on weekends, as electrical failures and emergencies may arise any time.
Electrical and Electronics Installer/ Installation Technician
Installation technicians work alongside inside wiremen to install a network of low voltage equipment and wiring systems. They can also work in advanced areas such as transportation equipment, motor vehicles, and avionics.
Most of their work occurs indoors, though some electricians install outdoor transportation equipment, motors, circuit breakers, and monitoring devices. Electricians working on transportation systems install sound, sonar, security, navigation, surveillance systems on trains, marine vehicles, etc.
Besides basic electrical information, installing electrical systems and equipment requires thorough familiarity with the working mechanisms of various machines.
Installation technicians typically pursue Electrical Engineering, Business, or Electrical Engineering Technology-related degrees. 32% of installation technicians hold a high school diploma, while 29% have an associate’s degree.
Installation technicians and repairers make an average of $29.82 per hour or $62,020 per year.
Maintenance electricians work in virtually every industry, from robotic system manufacturers to space tech, manufacturing, and construction sites. They maintain wiring, electrical parts, and auxiliary electrical systems in all kinds of machines that run on electrical power.
A maintenance electrician performs extensive testing and health monitoring to identify faults in the electrical assemblies. They must also prepare preventive maintenance plans to ensure motors and other electrical equipment are running smoothly.
Since these electricians work typically in an industrial setting, they enjoy fixed working hours and a safer work environment.
A maintenance electrician will most typically pursue an associate degree or high school diploma. Other degrees on maintenance electrician resumes include bachelor’s degrees or diploma degrees.
Maintenance electricians make an average of $25.51 an hour and $53,053 a year.
Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installers
With the advent of renewable energy sources, many electricians are shifting to solar-based industries. The daily job responsibilities of solar PV installers include assembling, setting up, and maintaining rooftop energy systems.
Electricians must complete specific on-the-job training modules in solar photovoltaic systems to pursue entry-level jobs as solar installers. These training programs can last anywhere from one month to one year. Some solar PV system manufacturers also conduct training on their specific products.
PV installers sometimes have a high school diploma. Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or technical schools to study solar panel installation.
While they earn a median salary of $46,470 per year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of these professionals will increase by a whopping 52 percent. If you’re on the lookout for exciting new job prospects, keep an eye on the solar PV field.
Some of the other roles that electricians can apply for are:
- Electro-mechanical technician
- Instrumentation technician
- Elevator and escalator repair technicians
- Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration installers
An electrician can work indoors, outdoors, and even on off-shore marine vessels. Some electricians also travel daily to remote job sites or to attend client calls. Independent electrical contractors who work on a project basis may have to stay at their project location until completion of the task.
Except for electricians working in an industrial setting, most electricians do not work a standard 40-hour week. However, most can enjoy time off at night, weekends, and on holidays. Some may sign up for on-call jobs resolving urgent problems for some extra income.
On the other hand, independent electrical contractors and junior electricians usually maintain a more sporadic schedule. They may follow one busy week with just a few hours of work the next. These electricians enjoy much more flexibility and control over their schedules than other types of electricians.
A lack of safety measures during work can lead to shocks, burns, and other injuries. Working outdoors also carries the risks of accidents and injuries. Electrical workers must follow good safety practices such as protective clothing and safety glasses. If an electrician works in a loud environment, they must also wear hearing protection.
During their training, electricians learn the basic first aid practices to help them deal with emergencies.
Electricians operate various tools and testing devices to perform their routine tasks. Typical tools include wire strippers, pliers, multimeters, screwdrivers, and testers.
Here are some of the most commonly used tools and their applications:
What Can You Expect on the Job?
An electrician’s job is exciting, and practical-intensive. Most electricians derive immense satisfaction from solving complex and disruptive problems.
In most cases, you won’t have to perform repetitive tasks. Instead, every new project requires critical thinking and problem solving using the standard electrical theory. Once you grow in your field, you can expect to lead a team of junior electricians or even start your own business.
How to Become an Electrician
An electrician’s work requires high technical proficiency and competency. Therefore, most training programs for electricians involve significant practical work. Because electricians work in risky environments, they must fully develop their skills before working independently.
How Do I Start My Training to Become an Electrician?
Most electrician training programs require a high-school diploma or GED. Therefore, first, you must focus on meeting your education requirements.
Once you obtain your high-school diploma, you can enroll in an electrician apprenticeship program. You’ll receive theory instructions and intensive on-the-job practical work during your training. However, these programs take a long time to complete.
After completing your formal education, you will be eligible for entry-level jobs in a shorter duration. You receive specialized training in advanced systems that prepares you for many electricians job profiles. Plus, you can continue to a bachelor’s degree in electrical technology.
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How Long Does It Take to Become an Electrician?
A typical apprenticeship program includes about 1,000 classroom hours and 2,000 on-the-job training hours. These programs can take 4-5 years to complete after earning your high school diploma. After finishing your apprenticeship, most states require you to obtain your licensure to work as a journeyman.
Alternatively, you can spend two years on your associate’s degree. Within two years, you can acquire all the skills necessary for becoming an electrician and apply for jobs.
You can choose any of the following paths to begin working as an electrician:
- Apprenticeship to become a Journeyman Electrician: 4 to 5 years
- Associate Degree Programs: 2 years
- Trade School Certificates: < 2 years
Trade schools are a better option, especially if you do not want to spend 4-5 years working in entry-level positions. Similarly, if you want career growth or the possibility of higher education in the future, you should consider earning an associate’s degree.
- AC/DC theory
- AutoCAD electrical
- Industrial automation, including PLCs, PACs, and HMIs
- Motors and motor control, including variable speed motor drives
- OSHA 10-hr. Construction Card
- Power and control circuit installation – including raceway design/build
- Power transmission, power supplies, and distribution & drives
- Renewable and sustainable energy – including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric power, and hydrogen fuel cells
- True RMS voltmeters, power meters, OHM & AMP meters and Megger test equipment
Can You Become an Electrician Without an Education?
The minimum educational level is a high school diploma or an equivalent course, like the General Education Diploma (GED).
An apprenticeship to become an electrician involves working under the mentorship of a licensed electrician for four to five years. Most apprenticeships include at least 144 hours of classwork and at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Different parts of the country offer different requirements to become an electrician. In most states, licensing is needed. Usually, a supervised apprenticeship is required to qualify for the licensure exam.
Licenses and Certifications
Most U.S. states require electricians to obtain a license before they start working. The licensing process generally consists of an examination to test one’s knowledge of electric theory, building codes, the national electrical code, and other local codes.
Once you obtain adequate experience, you can apply for a master electrician’s license. Master electricians have the legal authority to train apprentices and lead a team of electricians.
The National Electrical Contractors Association website contains the list of licensing requirements in each state.
Besides the education and licensing requirements, electricians need the following skills to excel at their jobs:
- Manual dexterity
- Hand-eye coordination
- Physical fitness
- Good vision
- Critical thinking
- Attention to detail
- Communication skills
Electricians work in a challenging environment. They help ensure that we have electricity in our homes and all our electrical equipment and systems are up and running. A career as an electrician can be a fulfilling path.
At the New England Institute of Technology, our training prepares graduates for a variety of careers in the field, like power system technicians, electrical research technicians, electrical distribution sales, electro-mechanical technicians, industrial/manufacturing automation technicians, field service engineers, commercial/industrial electricians, and more.
Other jobs and opportunities for aspiring electricians include:
- Aircraft Maintenance/Radar/Avionics
- Automation Technician
- Biomedical Equipment Technician
- Control Engineer
- Electro-Mechanical Technician
- Fiber-Optic Technician
- Nuclear Generator Test Service Technician
- Photovoltaic Installation Technician
- PLC/PAC Programmer
- Railroad Signal and Switch Operator
- Robot Production Technician
- Satellite Technician
- Specialized Marine Sonar Technician
Is a Career as an Electrician Right for Me?
A career as an electrician is great for those who enjoy working hands-on in a fast-paced environment. People who like taking on new challenges and solving problems may also want to consider becoming electricians.
Is Being an Electrician Hard on the Body?
An electrician’s job can be hard on the body, especially if you’re working as a line installer. However, not all electrician jobs are as physically demanding. Some electricians have a flexible work routine or fixed working hours, giving them adequate time to rest and relax during the weekends and holidays.
Where Do Electricians Work?
Electricians can work indoors or outdoors in residential, commercial, and industrial settings, depending upon their job duties. Every industry that relies on electrical power for functioning requires the services of an electrician at some point. Many companies also employ electricians full-time for installations, repair, and maintenance.
Additional sectors include power generation, manufacturing, electronic equipment, transportation, and the construction industry.